I Belong To The Road
Stony Plain Records
Rory Block continues with her extraordinary "Mentor Series" with previous tributes to Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and now Reverend Gary Davis. This is a tribute series of blues legends she has met at some point in her life. Others for possible tribute CDs are legends Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt, and Bukka White. Earlier she did a tribute to Robert Johnson who was someone she never has the pleasure to meet. That CD, according to Block, inspired her to begin the tribute series project that she hopes to market as a box set later.
The tribute to Reverend Gary Davis, the legendary blues/folk/gospel pioneer, titled I Belong To The Road, was deeply inspired by the memories she had as a very young aspiring artist and her visits with Reverend Gary Davis who at the time had migrated to New York. Davis was known for his unique finger-picking style on both the acoustic guitar and banjo. She recalls those visits riding the subway in 1964 at the age of 15 for guitar lessons with her friend Stefan Grossman. "I dabbled in several songs but not really. I went in the Mississippi slide and strumming styles, but not in that super high intensity picking style of Reverend Gary Davis."
The tribute CD has captured a guitar style very close to that of Davis's throughout the entire song list. Rory is quoted as saying "My area of focus was the Delta styles from day one. I never considered myself an expert in Davis's style." After listening to Block's tribute CD, you will find that glorious gospel sound echoes out much like it would from the vocals of the Baptist minister, Reverend Gary Davis himself. All of the tunes can be heard on Davis's Harlem Street Singer recorded during a three hour session on August 24, 1960. Block opens as did Davis with a version of Blind Willie Johnson's "If I Had My Way I'd Tear That Building Down" renamed "Samson and Delilah." Rory's joyous shouting of "Goin' to Sit Down on the Banks of the River" absolutely explodes with emotion along with her superb back-up vocals. Her powerful vocals and slide will have you clapping and stomping on "Let Us Get Together Right Down Here." Those powerful back-up vocals ring out along with Block rejoicing with Hallelujah on "I Belong To The Band." The gospel revival continues with "Lord, I Feel Just Like Goin' On," "Great Change Since I've Been Born," "I Am The Light Of This World," and "Twelve Gates To The City," once again with the strong coral back-up vocals and Block's rich vocals and remarkable acoustic and slide guitar. It is understandable why she has been called one of the most acclaimed female acoustic blues artists today when you listen to the remaining Reverend Gary Davis tunes, "Lo, I Be With You Always," "Pure Religion," and "Death Don't Have No Mercy."
Rory has done an extraordinary job of delivering the gospel music and country blues of Reverend Gary Davis with her powerfully emotional vocals and equally spectacular guitar work on this collection, her tribute to one of the greatest blues/gospel legends.